Ports: 1 x Thunderbolt 4 (upstream), 3 x Thunderbolt 4 (downstream), 1 x USB-A 3.1 Gen2.
Supports: Windows 10 laptops with Thunderbolt 4 and Thunderbolt 3 ports and non-M1 MacBook models running macOS Big Sur 11 (or later).
Leave it to Anker to scope out the best laptops on the market, take into account their (very limited) shortcomings, and offer an essential accessory to transform these premium notebooks into powerful desktop replacements. Anker’s 5-in-1 PowerExpand docking station is the company’s latest example of quality laptop accessories, and it shows off the power of Thunderbolt 4 connectivity in a neatly compact chassis.
Whether its a Dell XPS 13, a HP Spectre x360 14 or a MacBook Pro, the Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock can be a worthy companion to not only give these laptops the extra ports they’re lacking, but also deliver high transfer speeds and the ability to simultaneously charge and connect to external monitors with just one port. That’s not bad for a device that barely takes up any desk real estate.
“Am I willing to spend $200 on essentially three extra Thunderbolt 4 ports and one USB-A port?” is a justified question those considering Anker’s mini docking station should ask themselves. For one, Thunderbolt 4 is still considered the next generation of connectivity, and is still in its early stages, meaning hardware is limited. Plus, why go small when Anker’s 12-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 docking station offers so much more? The Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock is a pricey gadget, but it offers plenty of perks for those with the right laptop.
Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock price and availability
The PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock would be considered one of the least expensive Thunderbolt 4 options available, being priced at $199.99/£199.99. This is certainly true when compared to its bigger rivals, including Kensington’s $289.99 SD5700T Thunderbolt 4 docking station and Razer’s $329.99 Thunderbolt 4 Dock Chroma, along with Anker’s impressive Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station, which is priced from $279.99.
Take a look closer and you’ll find more value in the pricier docking stations. Unlike the 5-in-1 mini dock, Anker’s 12-in-1 docking station offers a dedicated USB-C port, four USB-A ports, HDMI output, an SD card reader and a headphone jack. For an extra $80 to $100, you get a lot more versatility.
At $230, the CalDigit Thunderbolt 4 Element Hub sports four USB-A ports and four Thunderbolt 4 ports. Clearly, Anker’s Power Expand Mini Dock could have benefited by fitting in a few extra ports. That said, since Thunderbolt 4 is backward compatible, those that purely need extra Thunderbolt, USB-C or USB4 ports will find the three downstream Thunderbolt 4 ports on the mini dock handy.
Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock design
Much like what the iPhone 12 mini is to Apple’s standard iPhone 12, the Anker PowerExpand Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock is a smaller version of Anker’s Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station. As it happens, this oddly makes it appear similar to the mini suitcase version of a RIMOWA Original suitcase. As you’ll find in my other review, that isn’t a bad design choice.
The mini dock features the same aluminium grooves covering its top and bottom side giving its thick frame a premium look and feel. Anker made this its signature style, and it's a design choice that works well in terms of visual appeal and in port placement.
Each port leaves enough space so cables don’t overcrowd the dock. What’s more, you’ll find the right ports placed on the most convenient side of the device. For example, the Thunderbolt 4 upstream port is at the front because it's the easiest place to connect or disconnect your laptop. Then again, the power button is placed on the rear of the device, making it inconvenient to turn on or off.
Anker’s mini docking station comes in at 0.5 pounds (250 grams) with dimensions of 4.9 x 2.8 x 0.9 inches (124 x 72 x 24 millimeters). This is significantly smaller and lighter than the much larger Anker Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station (1 pound, 7.3 x 2.9 x 1.3 inches) and Kensington SD5700T docking station (0.9 pounds, 7.1 x 3 x 1.2 inches).
This could be seen more as a travel-friendly USB-C hub, such as the Kensington SD1600P USB-C Mobile Dock (0.2 pounds, 5.3 x 3 x 0.6 inches). Since the Anker Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock can’t function without its sizable power adapter (6 x 2.3 x 1.3 inches), however, it can be cumbersome to pack into a laptop bag.
Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock ports and connectivity
The PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock excels at delivering plenty of Thunderbolt 4 ports in a small package, but little else.
On the front, the hub fits a Thunderbolt 4 upstream port with up to 40Gbps transfer speeds and an impressive 85W for charging, which is mainly used to connect your laptop. Next to this is one USB-A 3.1 port with 10Gbps transfer speeds and 5V/0.9A for charging. Many PC peripherals, such as a mouse, keyboard or USB drive, still use USB-A to connect to a laptop or docking station; one USB-A port isn’t enough for those looking to use multiple accessories unless they have a USB-C adapter.
Along the rear are three Thunderbolt 4 downstream ports offering 40Gbps speeds, 15W power and up to 8K display resolution at 30Hz (or dual 4K displays at 60Hz) when connected to a monitor.
To make the most of the physical USB-C connectors, you may want to seek out the best USB-C monitors. With Thunderbolt 4, Anker’s mini dock is capable of supporting up to two 4K displays, or one 8K display.
Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock performance
Since the PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock nearly delivers the same powerful connectivity as Anker’s Apex Thunderbolt 4 Docking Station with fewer ports, it didn’t come as a surprise it could charge, transfer files, and connect to multiple devices without hesitation.
With the 100W power adapter, the Thunderbolt 4 upstream port supports up to 85W for charging, meaning it could easily power and charge a Dell Latitude laptop and the more power-demanding Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2021).
Anker also states the hub can transfer a 20GB file in 14 seconds when you use the Thunderbolt 4 port or in just 26 seconds when you use the USB-C port. Sure enough, I transferred a similarly sized file (Disco Elysium: The Final Cut at 18GB) in no time using the USB-C port.
For those with work setups that require multiple peripherals, expect to still use a majority of them on the laptop itself. I usually use a HyperX Alloy Origins 60, HyperX Cloud II Wireless headphones via USB-A stick, and Razer Naga Pro mouse plugged in via USB-A stick. While the one USB-A port on the mini dock worked fine, I was still connecting the rest of my peripherals on my laptop. For a pricey docking station, Anker could have fit more ports on the device. As a side note, my smartphone was charging via the 20W USB-C port at fast speeds.
Additionally, the 5-in-1 mini docking doesn’t have an SD card reader included. This is a sorely missed port, especially for professionals when transferring data or storing photos. Laptops such as the Dell XPS 13 don’t have a SD card reader, and owners usually seek one in a docking station.
For those without a monitor with USB-C connectivity, this docking station won’t be your cup of tea, either. Since there aren’t any HDMI or DisplayPort outputs, the mini dock can only be used to transfer files at wicked fast speeds and charge other devices at 15W with USB-C connectivity. That’s underwhelming for a $200 device. Plus, there aren’t many people who will have an 8K monitor to link up to right now.
Since the PowerExpand mini dock only supports single display output on 2020 MacBook models and beyond, owners of M1 MacBook Air and M1 MacBook Pro are already missing out on one of the docking station’s biggest features: dual monitor support. The future of Apple is its custom silicon, and with more making the favourable transition to use Mac models with the powerful chip, there isn’t much incentive for Apple devotees to spend an extra $200 on Anker’s mini dock.
Despite packing the incredible power of Thunderbolt 4 into a compact, premium-looking chassis, the Anker PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock offers limited capabilities for a high price point. That said, the mini dock is a welcome companion for notebooks lacking ports, especially if you’re after more USB-C, Thunderbolt 3 and 4 connections. Additionally, it’s one of the most affordable hubs around if you’re in need of more Thunderbolt 4 options.
If you pay an extra $80, however, you’ll get an additional seven ports and a much more versatile docking station in Anker’s 12-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 docking station. It features the same distinct and striking design as the mini dock that will fit into any professional work space, while also boasting an SD card reader and HDMI outputs. If you’re just looking for Thunderbolt 4 connectivity though, you can’t go wrong with the PowerExpand 5-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 Mini Dock.
If you’re looking for similar-sized hubs with plenty of ports and prices that start at just $30/£30, check out the best USB-C hubs you can get today. Better yet, check out the best docking stations for your Dell XPS laptop.